The European Le Mans Series has carried on its trend of having large grids as the series announced 36 entries for the 2017 season.
Headed by a 13 car LMP2 class, the new regulations surrounding the category has not curtailed entries as a mix of Ligiers, Orecas and Dallaras look to do battle.
Positively for series organisers, a number of these 13 come from teams stepping up from the LMP3 class – more on that further down – with United Autosports, Tockwith Motorsport, Graff, Villorba Corse some of the notable teams to move up a level on the ACO prototype ladder.
Also of note, last year’s champions G-Drive Racing – now run by TDS Racing after leaving Jota – are returning with an Oreca 07 for lead driver Memo Rojas.
Third place team SMP Racing will also continue in the pan-European championship in a car designed by another company for the first time in years as they swap their BR.02 for a Dallara P217.
Elsewhere in LMP2, French football legend Fabien Barthez will be back in his self-named Panis Barthez Competition team with Ligier’s newest prototype – the Ligier JSP217.
In LMP3, the junior prototype category is once again providing the bulk of ELMS entries as the class welcomes 16 entries – 14 of which as Ligier JSP3s however, two teams will enter Norma M30s to break up the Onroak strangle-hold on the class.
Of note, last year’s champions United Autosports will combine their P2 entry with a pair of LMP3 entries for their first announced drivers John Falb and Mark Patterson.
One team entering the Norma is Yvan Muller’s new team M.Racing – YMR who enter a Norma for Yann Ehrlacher and a Ligier for Alexandre Cougnaud.
The second Norma comes from Oregon Team who will be running the car for Davide Roda, that team moving into the championship for the first time.
A team not only entering the ELMS for the first time, but set to race a prototype for the first time is AT Racing who will run a Ligier for lead driver Alexander Talkanitsa.
Finally LMGTE and three Ferraris will take on two Porsches and two Aston Martins in the seven car car class.
Of the three Ferraris, two are Ferrari 488 GTEs entered by Spirit of Race for Gianluca Roda and Duncan Cameron while the third is an older Ferrari 458 of JMW Motorsport with Robert Smith the first confirmed driver in that car.
The two Porsches are the 2016-spec Porsche 911 RSRs of Proton Competition who has announced Christian Ried and Wolf Henzler as their lead drivers.
Finally, the Aston Martins and the pair have a distinctly British GT air as the returning championship winning car of Beechdean AMR and Andrew Howard will be joined by regular British rivals TF Sport for an ELMS rumble. The team will be moving up to the GTE class for the first time and regular driver pairing Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey will be joined by Nicki Thiim for every round except Le Mans where Rob Bell will substitute.
Gérard Neveu, CEO of the European Le Mans Series, said: “2017 marks the fifth season since the relaunch of the ELMS and the series continues to provide the best platform for endurance racing anywhere in the world. The six race calendar provides a great mix of top class circuits across Europe to challenge the teams and drivers and provide some great action packed racing for the fans, both at the track and watching around the world on TV or via the live streaming.
“We have a great mix of teams and manufacturers in the new LMP2 class with Dallara, Ligier and Oreca. We have Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche in LMGTE and with 16 cars, the LMP3 class will provide some great drama in 2017. This season has the potential to be the best yet in the long history of the European Le Mans Series.”